Poetry Writing Contest XXII, First Place (2008)

NEW MILLENNIUM AWARD FOR POETRY

“Survival” by Susan Cohen of Berkeley, California

When digging in the ashes, sometimes you find a poem. I worked on this one over several years, paring the language while the idea enlarged itself. — Susan Cohen


Cohen will receive $1,000, a certificate to mark the success, and publication both online and in print.


Survival

By Susan Cohen

Even a samovar

that rode the boat

with my grandmother, vanished

like the shtetl world

it came from, up in smoke

as if its nickel and its lead

were no harder

or more permanent

than a shoe box crammed

with photos of the long-dead;

than table linens

that had been my mother’s

cross-stitched dowry;

than oil paintings

that hung for years, then

ran at the first lick

of heat. When fire tore

their house down

to the foundation, it erased

every item my parents owned

from six decades of marriage

—except one

small Wedgwood dish,

blue and heart-shaped.

I found the dish intact

where flames had whipped

2000 hardbound books

into creamy ash,

but my parents didn’t want it.

They’d already started over.

I won’t claimI saved it;

I just took the heart

for my mantelpiece.

What saved it was

the ferocious heat

at which Wedgwood bakes

to hardness.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 

Susan Cohen’s first chapbook, “Backstroking”, won the Acorn-Rukeyser Award from Mekler & Deahl publishers. She’s a journalist in Berkeley, California.

“Survival” © 2006 Susan Cohen

re: Support

Did you know that NMW+SUNSHOT+MUSEPAPER is 100% independent, ad-free, anti-paywall, not beholden to any grants, governmental or otherwise? We do our work solely for our contributors, submitters, and readers. We also don’t have “unpaid interns,” everyone who helps to make this possible is compensated.

We’re constantly innovating to bring more opportunities and encouragement to new, aspiring, and established writers. We push the envelope and we lick our own stamps. Your support matters.

NMW needs your help to ensure the future of literature is not homogenized and dumbed-down by the zero-sum game of corporate data and profit. It’s a fight we can win, but it’s a fight.

We’ll keep showing up — NMW Literary Journal & Awards, Sunshot Press & Book Awards, Musepaper.org, and more — as long as you keep showing up.

POETRY | FICTION |  FLASH FICTION | NONFICTION

Subscribe to the Newsletter

Join NMW's 10,849 Subscribers

Scroll to Top